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Seaside People Mover

Posted on Sep 01, 2013 in Sunshine Shuttle , Transportation , September-October 2013

“It beats having to drive in all the way to work. The best thing is not fighting the traffic, especially at night.” - Pamela Thomas, who works at Cottage Rental Agency in Seaside. Photo courtesy Sunshine Shuttle

In efforts to reduce the amount of vehicle traffic in and around Seaside, Sunshine Shuttle & Limousine and Seaside came together to develop a transportation system for Seaside’s retail and hospitality employees from a designated, county owned parking area across the street from Shops of Grayton on County Road 283.

The collaboration began in May and ran through Labor Day weekend, running from 7 a.m. to midnight, seven days a week.

“Since May, we’ve been averaging between 75 to 100 employees per day,” said Mike Wells, chief operating officer for Sunshine. “And going forward, we welcome the opportunity to work with businesses all along Scenic Route 30A in an effort to alleviate vehicular traffic, and encourage opportunities to support green initiatives.”

The timing for this community co-op came at the height of the busy summer season. According to Wells, up to 100 cars are taken off the road on any given day, making this not only a green issue, but a traffic cleansing effort impacting all visitors to South Walton County.

“We hired additional drivers specifically for this program, bringing economic growth, too,” he said.

The partnership came about through discussions between Sunshine and Seaside as to ways to reduce vehicular traffic on 30A.

“But in the long run, reducing all traffic along the route is crucial to making sure people return to the area based on their positive experiences here,” Wells said.

Funded by Seaside Community Development Corp., Sunshine’s Owner John Finch sees this program as an extremely positive stepping stone for repositioning the car-centric attitude along 30A.

“Many people may not know this, but Walton County owns a large percentage of land north of 30A. We can turn that into a tremendous asset by carefully creating designated parking areas along its 18 miles,” said Finch. “Imagine restaurants like the V in Seagrove and Stinky’s in Santa Rosa Beach each having their own large, or shared, parking areas. Combine that with communities like Rosemary Beach and WaterColor offering employee transportation, and a 30A Tram connecting all of these. That’s a bona fide route system incorporating parking areas, employee transportation, and tourism, taking hundreds of cars off the road. Everyone will benefit.”

Since creating a Unified Transportation System (UTS) with the business owners of nearby Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort, Finch is hopeful that a privately or publicly funded 30A Tram is simply inevitable. He added, “If Sandestin can do it, the business leaders of 30A can do it.”

“Seaside really stepped up to the plate to make this happen,” said Finch. “There was no precedent for this type of program, so they deserve credit for setting the stage on future similar projects. Every journey begins with a single step — or in this case, a single shuttle.

“Bringing communities together, and pointing out the benefits of creating more parking for their visitors by transporting their employees from a single spot, may help everyone understand that 30A just cannot withstand the daily onslaught of vehicular overload,” Finch concluded. “When the 30A Tram comes to fruition, every community will see positive change.”